Negotiating Salary Through a Recruiter

negotiating salary

Ready for stress-free salary negotiations? Work with a recruiter.

Whether you’re a new grad or a seasoned pro, negotiating salary is one of the most important aspects of any interviewing process. But how do you approach negotiating salary through a recruiter?

Recruiting: Some Background

There are many types of recruiters, but we all share the same goal – to fill a job opening with the right person for the job. (To learn more about the types of recruiters check out this series.) Some recruiters earn a portion or all of their income from making these placements.

In our industry it’s a race to vet talent and get them submitted for our client’s job opening. For a single opening we may be competing against one or several other recruiters and vendors whom a client has decided to work with. Those who source, screen, and submit their candidates first increase the odds that one of them will be hired in the end.

Job Type: The Impact on You

Employers who source talent through staffing agencies or consulting firms provide compensation and/or budget information for all the roles that they’ve asked the vendor to work on. Roles that are direct hire, contract-to-hire, or contract/project-based all have various factors that impact the pay.


You’ll want to ask the recruiter what type of position it is and whom you’ll be receiving your pay through if you’re considering a job through them before reaching the negotiation stage

+ Direct Hire

A percentage of the candidate’s first year salary is paid to the recruiter vendor by the client, other times this can be a flat fixed fee. This cost covers the time that the recruiter has invested in the conducting the search and also takes into consideration any other expenses to conduct business on the client’s behalf as well. Once you’re hired, compensation for these roles comes directly from the client, as you’ll be their employee.

+ Contract-to-Hire

We all like to try things out before we buy. For clients and candidates, this helps to ensure a good fit for both parties. When the role is contract-to-hire, there’s a predetermined timeframe for decision day. This can vary from 30 days to 3 months or more. These positions are typically hourly and may or may not come with benefit options.


You’ll want to ask the recruiter when the timeframe for the conversion from being a contractor of the recruiter’s firm to being a full employee of the client’s. This should be provided in a written agreement and clearly spelled out.

The client pays the staffing or consulting vendor for all the hours worked and the vendor issues pay to the talent. The vendor covers all the employment taxes and costs for conducting business with the client and vendor, such as administration (HR, accounting, payroll processing, etc.) For positions that are benefit eligible, the talent has the option to purchase benefits through the vendor. You’re an employee of the vendor and will receive your pay from the vendor until you’re converted to an employee of the client. A conversion fee is factored in and paid by the client when the talent is converted, usually at a discount or pro-rated.

+ Contract/Project Based

For contract and project-based jobs, there’s a predetermined timeframe. It may be a day, a week or more. For these jobs, you are an employee of the staffing or consulting firm vendor. The way compensation (including any eligibility for benefits is handled) is the same as the contract-to-hire position. There is no conversion fee factored into these positions for the client to pay. All of your pay is issued directly though the vendor. Once the contract ends, the recruiter will work to set you up in another opportunity, or you’re welcome to pursue opportunities elsewhere.


You’ll want to ask the recruiter how long the assignment will be and have this in writing along with information on your compensation

Negotiating Salary 

Now that you have an understanding of the types of jobs and how they impact the pay, let’s talk negotiations.

Part of the initial screening process includes discussing compensation – a subject that’s uncomfortable for many people to discuss. You should never feel pressured to disclose your personal salary information to anyone if you do not wish to do so. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for the salary range or hourly rate of the position we’re considering you for along with any other benefit information, in writing. Many recruiters may volunteer this upfront and ask if it’s something you’d consider, or in a range you’re looking for.

We understand that nobody wants to be sold short or leave money on the table. If we’re considering you for a position, we encourage you to do some research on your own for comparable salaries and going rates for the title of the job you’re being considered for; while factoring in the above provided information on the job type. You’ll want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples if you have other offers or are considering it against what you’re earning now.

If you’re applying and interviewing for a direct-hire role with our client, NEVER discuss compensation with the client. That’s what we’re here for! It’s our job to mediate all negotiations to make sure that you’re satisfied and so is the client. It’s one of the many benefits of working with a recruiter. If you are asked by the client, let the client know that they’ll need to discuss it with your recruiter and inform us.

We’re here to help make negotiating your salary a good experience and one you’ll consider again when you’re ready to make your next career move.